Special Tiara shines in the Champion Chase as Douvan returns lame

Filed on 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:16

Special Tiara (11/1) delivered the finest performance of his career to be crowned a shock winner of the 2017 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with a superb front-running performance in the two-mile chasing championship at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Ridden by Noel Fehily, the 10-year-old son of Kayf Tara led throughout and jumped superbly. Still clear after jumping the last, Henry de Bromhead's charge responded well to Fehily's urgings up the punishing Cheltenham hill and fend off the late challenge of Colin Tizzard's 7/1 chance Fox Norton, who stayed on stoutly to finish just a head behind the winner, in a thrilling finish.

Tom George's Sir Valentino (33/1) was six lengths back in third.

Special Tiara is a regular at the Festival and has finished sixth, third and third again in the 2014-2016 renewals of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, today was the gelding's crowning glory as he caused a seismic shock in a race many believed would be a mere procession for 2/9 favourite Douvan.

De Bromhead, gaining his fourth Cheltenham Festival winner, said: "It's a horse race and anything can happen but this is very hard to believe at the moment. No horse deserves it any more than this lad and Sally [Rowley-Williams, owner] loves her horses and no-one deserves this more than her.

"Noel gave Special Tiara a super ride. The horse is just a legend and I just thought he jumped really quick today over his fences. Noel is an amazing rider and I am absolutely delighted for him.

"I am so pleased for everyone involved. He seemed in great form coming into this - I nearly said to our head lad Davy Roche at home that this fellow seems better than ever and I said: 'No, no, I will stop'.

"Special Tiara seemed in great form but it is hard to believe with Douvan and everything else. For our lad, it's amazing. He just tries his heart out and no horse deserves it more.

"I thought that he jumped the slickest that he has ever jumped. Often, he jumps a bit high but he was so slick today, it's incredible.

"Any day that you win a Grade One at Cheltenham is an amazing day and one of the feature races. My uncle and aunt bred this horse and for Sally, it's just brilliant."

"Douvan is a super horse. I don't know what happened today but our horse has benefitted from it. I was surprised we had such a nice lead at the top of the hill and the finish was very nerve-wracking.

"He loves that better ground and he gives his all every time. He is a great horse."

Willie Mullins, trainer of the previously unbeaten superstar Douvan, said: "He never did that before, I imagine we will find something physical wrong with him. Ruby was gobsmacked by that. Douvan didn't jump as well as he expected. Usually we would find something wrong when something like this happens.

"When they jump like that they can injure themselves, it is a huge strain they exert upon themselves and he is a big horse. He put in two or three odd jumps and I would say he must have done something. It takes a lot out of a horse to make a mistake like that in a championship race.

"I think he probably pulled something, maybe a muscle or a ligament. Hopefully, it is only something that will come right straight away. When I saw him jump the first couple of fences, I thought he would have to be a superhorse to win this. You don't get away with that sort of jumping and win a (Betway Queen Mother) Champion Chase, you might win a beginners' chase but not a champion class of race.

"I am hoping that he could be one of the best horses I have ever trained, but today was clearly not his run. We will have to get him back on track, if we can, but that is the way it is. We are all disappointed that this has happened. Now my main job is to find out what is wrong and how long it will take to fix.

"Ruby didn't say Douvan had come back lame, all he said was that the horse wasn't moving well behind. I don't know whether that was after he jumped during the race or as he was pulling up. He didn't say there was something wrong behind but that he felt that he wasn't moving well behind.

"I am well used to dealing with the frustration of racing, if not quite at this level with this type of hore, but that is the way it is.

Ruby Walsh, rider of Douvan, added: "We were beaten a long way out, he didn't jump well. He didn't feel right and he never got going."

Filed on 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:16